A Sisterhood of Success in Good Times, Down Markets
The Denver sisterhood, from the left: Cheri Meyn, Cheryl Schuette, Jennifer Gore, Jeanne Ryan and Margi Clute.
Denver was not the most promising place to start a career in new home sales and marketing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The housing market was suffering then, much like it is in most parts of the country now.
But that didn’t stop five talented, driven women from meeting and starting a friendship that they all say helped them to become some of the most successful building industry professionals in Colorado. They first met at the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver.
Cheryl Schuette was working in the back office at Village Homes of Englewood, Colo. at the time. Today she is president of the company.
Jennifer Gore was just starting her career in new home sales and marketing. She now runs her own successful business, Jennifer Gore Unlimited, a new home sales and marketing firm in Greenwood Village, Colo.
Margi Clute had left a career in microbiology to get out on the sales floor when she first met the other women. She moved on to marketing and is now retired after years of success as a vice president with several top home builders.
Jeanne Ryan went from being a sales manager for a home builder to establishing a successful career as a broker associate with Prudential Rocky Mountain Realtors®.
Cheri Meyn started her own real estate analysis business, The Genesis Group in Englewood, while she was in her 20s. Her business is still thriving.
Forming Friendships in a Male-Dominated Industry
All five women were just beginning their careers in what was then a male-dominated industry, at least in Denver, when they first met. All five were involved, in varying degrees, with their HBA’s sales and marketing council and various boards and committees.
All five credit hard work and determination — and each other — for their success.
“Being actively involved like that, our paths crossed very regularly,” said Schuette. “We were really energized by the opportunity to network with peers who were facing the same challenges and opportunities in new home marketing and building operations.”
Gore remembered initially being intimidated by the talented women she met. “I was just starting out, just starting to take IRM classes,” she recalled. “I was really green. I thought, ‘Should I even go talk to them?’”
She not only wanted to talk to them, she wanted to learn from them, too.
“I really used the IRM classes as a basis for the questions I asked them,” Gore said. After talking with them and getting to know them, she eventually suggested they start going out to dinner every month to share what they knew about the industry. “We called it the ‘Stress Management Group,’” she laughed.
Brainstorming Over Dinners
Each month, the group discussed industry issues, shared ideas and gave each other feedback. The brainstorming quickly became the most valuable part of their meetings.
“If one of us had a problem with a salesperson, marketing, a particular home to sell or a grand opening party, we’d find out what the others had done and what was successful,” Clute said. “There was a lot of idea sharing.”
This collaboration also spurred the women on to try new things and take risks.
“We challenged each other to stay on the leading edge,” said Schuette. “I bet there was a little competitive nature in that. If one of us was starting on something new and different, we asked a lot of questions and helped lead one another to new technologies and approaches.”
This support system was particularly crucial at that time because there were very few women in high-ranking positions in the industry. “We were the only women in executive positions with any of the major home builders in town,” said Clute, a vice president of marketing for Writer Corporation when the women first began meeting. Writer has since been purchased by Standard Pacific Homes.
Networking to Be the Best
Finding other women who were “working their way up” created a great support system, said Ryan. “This wasn’t about networking to get business. It was truly about improving ourselves and being the best that we could be.”
The women are emphatic about the immeasurable effect their friendship has had on their careers.
Meyn said the monthly talks were crucial to her decision to start her own business. “It’s rare that you can sit elbow to elbow with people who care about you and your business and get honest, professional feedback,” Meyn said. “Being around people who absolutely supported me from the beginning, and the honesty I got from them on a regular basis helped me form a successful company.”
Keeping It Professional
“We kept our businesses to ourselves while getting advice,” said Schuette. “We were very professional about sharing only the things that were okay to share.”
“Having a confidential network was crucial,” added Meyn. “I couldn’t give details about my projects, but I could ask questions about business issues like dealing with employees and salary.”
This level of trust was key to the group’s enduring strength and value.
Trading ideas and knowledge quickly evolved into a lasting friendship. Through the years, the women not only celebrated professional successes, but personal milestones, as well.
They began taking trips together nearly every year. “The first one was for my 50th birthday,” recalled Clute. “I opened my birthday card and there was my ticket to Puerto Vallarta. That trip set a precedent for celebrating everyone’s 50th.”
The women have since been on a second trip to Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta, as well as to Cabo San Lucas, New York City, Palm Springs, Calif., Scottsdale, Ariz. and Las Vegas.
“The funniest thing is that we always end up talking about work,” said Schuette. “Whether we’re at dinner or on a trip to Mexico, we’re brainstorming ways to be better.”
These days, the group has dinner about four or five times a year. Although the meetings are less frequent, the connection is as strong as ever.
“All through our careers we’ve really encouraged each other a lot,” said Clute. “We’ve been a huge support system for each other in a lot of ways.”
Face Market Challenges With IRM Confidence
Institute of Residential Marketing (IRM) classes help new home sales and marketing professionals meet market challenges.
Courses include” The Challenge of New Home Sales Management,” “Understanding Housing Markets and Consumers,” “Marketing Strategies, Plans and Budgets” and more. The courses provide the credits needed to earn the MIRM designation, the top-level achievement for professionals in new home marketing.
Find upcoming IRM classes here. For more information, call the Professional Designation Help Line at 800-368-5242 x8154, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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